Are you ready for Gov. Caitlyn Jenner?

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Photo by Damian Dovarganes AP
Photo by Damian Dovarganes AP

Caitlyn Jenner announced on April 23 that she will be a candidate to replace Gavin Newsom as governor of California if Newsom is recalled by voters.

The Republican-led effort to oust Newsom appears to be headed for the ballot. More than 2 million signatures have been gathered on a petition to recall him — far more than the 1.5 million need to trigger a recall election. Only 266,000 have been ruled invalid.

Once popular in California, Newsom has been blamed by his political enemies for state-imposed restrictions during the COVID pandemic. His popularity sank even lower after he was caught violating his own masking guidelines at a dinner party.

"I am a proven winner and the only outsider who can put an end to Gavin Newsom's disastrous time as governor," Jenner said in a statement. "Californians want better and deserve better from their governor."

Jenner criticized Newsom for "over-restrictive lockdowns" and high taxes.

"This isn't the California we know," Jenner said in her statement. "This is Gavin Newsom's California, where he orders us to stay home but goes out to dinner with his lobbyist friends."

Jenner, well known to older voters as an Olympic athlete and to younger ones as a reality TV star, is running as a Republican. She describes herself as "socially liberal and fiscally conservative."

Her campaign faces many obstacles, not least of which is that the "socially liberal" piece no longer fits in a Republican Party dominated by Trumpism, QAnon conspiracy theories, and Christian nationalism.

Jenner previously supported Trump, and her campaign staff includes many former Trump lieutenants, including campaign manager Brad Parscale and pollster Tony Fabrizio. She walked back her support, however, in response to Trump administration attacks on Transgender people.

According to a recent poll by the Public Policy Institute of California, only about 40% of California voters support a recall vote, and Newsom has launched a full-fledged "Stop the Republican Recall" campaign.

If the recall qualifies for the ballot, Californians will have to answer two questions: Do they want to recall Newsom, and, if so, who do they want to replace him?

Actually removing Newsom from office takes a simple majority of voters. Winning the election to replace him takes only a plurality. Since there's no limit to how many candidates can run, someone could be elected governor of California with only 20% or 25% of the vote.

"It's an expensive, distracting pain in the ass for Californians if it happens," Newsom spokesperson Dan Newman told Vox magazine. "In the Davis recall we had 135 candidates, and it was a total circus. Some people think we could have 10 times as many candidates this time around."

In addition to Jenner, previous Republican gubernatorial nominee John Cox, who lost to Newsom in 2018, is in the running, as is former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, also a Republican.